Remembering John Singleton’s Unsung Impact On Black Television

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 20:  (L-R) Michael Hyatt, John Singleton, Carter Hudson, and Dave Andron attend the New York screening of 'Snowfall' at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on July 20, 2017 in New York City.  (Photo by CJ Rivera/Getty Images)

Remembering John Singleton’s Unsung Impact On Black Television

Twenty-four years after "Boyz N the Hood," Singleton was still shooting from the front line, and helping lead the current renaissance of Black TV.

Published April 30th

By the age of 27, John Singleton had already directed Boyz N the Hood (Academy Award nominee for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay) Poetic Justice (starring Tupac Shakur and Janet Jackson) and a $2 million music video for Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time.”

After family members announced his untimely passing Monday morning (April 29), some are still discovering all of the amazing work Singleton managed to produce in his 24-year career.

The Los Angeles native will forever be known as an icon of Black cinema, but he spent the past decade making incredible content for a number of television networks, bypassing the usual Hollywood studios.

With critically acclaimed documentaries about sports and politics, and big budget hits like Empire and Billions, he made his transition from the big screen to the small screen look effortless, all while bringing his people along for the ride.

Former friend and collaborator Curtis Snow (star and creator of indie classic Snow on tha Bluff) remembers meeting Singleton in 2013. He spoke to BET about how it felt to be embraced by one of his biggest inspirations:

“My old manager introduced me to him first. Then when I got to California a couple years later, I was at a lil’ concert that Snoop [Dogg] was doing. That boy John came through like, ‘What’s up, Snow? Long time no see.’ He like, ‘Man, get my number down, I’m gonna come pick you up tomorrow.’”

Snow’s fondest memory is Singleton telling him how Snow on tha Bluff helped inspire Snowfall:

“We went to one of them little vegan spots. Just was talking and kicking it. And he was telling me about goddamn Snowfall back in like 2015. He was like, ‘Ay boy, when I watched Snow on tha Bluff, it gave me that feeling, like put me back when I did my first movie.’

"Bruh said my sh*t really inspired him, in so many words. Said he learned from watching me. I was like, ‘Man, sheeeit.’ You know how good that made me feel? Then he was telling me about how he wanted to make a movie with me and him like Vampire in Brooklyn with Eddie Murphy.”

Singleton mentored countless other Black filmmakers during his illustrious career. Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and Taraji P. Henson all credit him with opening the door to their Hollywood dreams, and many more are sharing their favorite memories on social media after the tragic news of his passing.

Snow still smiles fondly reflecting on their times together:

“My boy, John, chopped it up with me for like three days straight out there in Cali. He came and picked me up and we goddamn kicked it every day—he was real like that. And he was just a good n****a, man. Real, A-1, solid. He inspired the hell outta me to keep doing what I was doing, in a real way. Because all my movies really based on true, real events, and the majority of his sh*t, them motherf***as was true, real events. He showed there was a demand for the street sh*t, forreal, forreal. He showed you the vision before anybody.”

Here's a recap of Singleton’s best TV projects throughout the years, including programs for BET, ESPN, FOX and STARZ. May he rest in peace. 

  1. Snowfall (FX, 2017-Present)

    Singleton once described Snowfall as the “ghetto Game of Thrones,” and there’s no telling how big the series was going to become before his passing. In just two seasons, he captivated audiences with beautiful visuals, raw dialogue and an authentic portrayal of the early days of crack cocaine in Los Angeles.

  2. Rebel (BET, 2017)

    Singleton executive-produced this BET feature about the struggles cops of color face in American cities. Starring Danielle Moné Truitt and created by Amani Walker, the drama continued Singleton's legacy of putting on for his people, both in front of and behind the camera.

  3. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX, 2016)

    The award-winning FX series called on Singleton to direct one of its most controversial episodes (“The Race Card”), and he delivered on the drama and '90s nostalgia like only he could.

  4. Billions (Showtime, 2017)

    Singleton secured a serious bag guest directing the hit show Billions, one of Showtime’s most popular programs. The financial drama stars Paul Giamatti and follows the corruption and power games that go on in the world of finance.

  5. Empire (FOX, 2015)

    Singleton guest-directed an episode of Lee Daniels’ massive hit musical series, which stars his longtime collaborator Taraji P. Henson. Taraji credits Singleton with giving her her big break in Baby Boy and helping to build the confidence that now makes her one of Hollywood’s most dangerous leading ladies.

  6. Marion Jones: Press Pause (30 for 30 Documentary, ESPN, 2010)

    After Olympian Marion Jones was stripped of her medals for using performance enhancing drugs, Singleton added important context to her choices by documenting the struggles she overcame at various points in her life.

  7. The Game (BET, 2013)

    In a rare on-camera appearance, Singleton popped up as himself in two episodes of the beloved BET sitcom The Game.

  8. L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later (2017)

    Singleton took us back to the riots that almost destroyed his hometown with L.A. Burning, giving those who weren’t there to witness it a history lesson they will never forget.

Written by Calvin Stovall

(Photo by CJ Rivera/Getty Images)

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